Dili, Timor-Leste

Reference work entry


Timor-Leste’s capital is located on the north coast of the island on the Ombai Strait. Historically it is the chief port and commercial centre of Timor-Leste although much of the city was destroyed in the violence of the 1999 referendum.


Dili’s importance as a centre for trade came with the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century.

After the Portuguese ceded control to Indonesia in 1975, Dili was invaded by Indonesian forces and in 1976 it was made Timor-Leste’s capital. Dili remained central in the struggle between the East Timorese population and the Indonesian government. In Nov. 1991 Indonesian soldiers opened fire on unarmed members of a funeral procession making its way to Dili’s Santa Cruz cemetery. Two hundred and seventy-one unarmed East Timorese were killed and 250 were reported missing in the aftermath.

Immediately after results of the UN-administered referendum in 1999 were declared, showing an overwhelming vote for increased autonomy, Indonesian forces once more invaded the capital. In the violence which followed more than half the homes in Dili were destroyed. The Indonesian government prevented humanitarian organizations from entering the city and most of the city’s population fled to the surrounding hills.

Modern City

Main industries include coffee, oil and gas, fisheries and spices.

There is an international airport.

Places of Interest

Dili is set for a new chapter in its history following Timor-Leste’s independence in May 2002.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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